I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Graveyard Dust by Barbara Hambly

This is the third book in the Benjamin January series and I am even more impressed than ever how Hambly is able to put you in the mind of a free man of color in 1830s Louisiana, which has just become a state that has been "invaded" by the Americans, according to the old Creole families who are quite set in their ways and see the Americans as crude and uncivilized.  In this book, she explores the world of Voodoo.

January's sister, Olympe, a Voodoo healer, has just been arrested for selling poison to a free woman of color, Celie, in order for her to kill her husband, Isaak Jumon, whose body has not been found, yet. Jumon's brother Antoine, while drunk, and possibly drugged is captured and led to a house where he finds his brother dying with his wife's words on his lips.  Now, Isaak is set to inherit land and money from his white father, which has caused his mother to claim him as her slave that has run away, in order to get his inheritance.  His white uncle, whom Isaak is close to is doing his best to help January, but he also has a stake in this inheritance. 

January seeks help from various places, including the Creoles, the Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau, and runaway slaves who have knowledge of where Isaak was during his last days.  January, may be a Catholic now, but he was living on the plantation before being freed, he participated in some of the celebration dances with the compelling drums and music that speaks to a part of his soul.  Someone curses his room with graveyard dust, which is a death curse, and while he would like to think he does not believe in these things, deep down he does.  Marie is called in to help cleanse the room and recommends that he wear protection, but he refuses, as his Catholic sensibilities will not allow him to do so. 

While Olympe languishes in a prison that has an outbreak of yellow fever that is being covered up, the clock is ticking and if these two women go to trial, they will surely be found guilty just for the color of their skins and the fact that Olympe practices Voodoo.  A body is found and Isaak's mother claims that it is him, but it is not.  So where is he and what has happened to him?  January discovers that he did spend some time in a hidden spot of New Orleans where runaway slaves go, but has no idea of where he went from there.  There is also another player in this game: an evil Voodoo practitioner  who is up to no good. 

January does not have a lot of time to find the clues that will lead to who killed Isaak and save his sister and Ceclie and he lacks the usual help he gets from Lieutenant Shaw, who is away on some other matter that January knows nothing about.  This book gives you an inside look into the world of Voodoo, both the good and the bad sides of it.  And the mystery of Isaacs's  possible death and mysteriously missing body only add to strangeness going on in a town where strangeness is the norm.

January must avoid a group of men who are trying to kill him in order to keep him from finding out the truth, which is way bigger than the death of one man.  Will January be able to save the two women's practically guaranteed death sentence or will the Voodoo death curse come and claim him before he can?

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Graveyard-Dust-Benjamin-January-Book/dp/0553575287/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1481128470&sr=8-2&keywords=graveyard+dust

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